Slightly different slant on this week’s post, I’m focusing on shopping and customer service. The reason being I’m a fan of the new Mary Portas TV show ‘Secret Shopper’. For any of my International readers or those of you that have not seen the show let me explain. Basically Mary Portas has decided that the customer service on Britain’s high street is at an all time low so has decided to go undercover to find out how terrible it is. Each week she picks a different retailer, so far she’s done fashion and furniture stores, then works with them to try and improve their customer service and actually help the customer. Some of the idea’s she comes up with are pretty cool. But this got me thinking about my own experience in retail and the customer service I have received/given when out shopping.
When I first started working for a fashion retailer, River Island, I remember being told to greet everyone at the door. So I did… then I remember my supervisor saying “wow, you actually did greet every single person”. However, when I think about the service I generally receive from high street fashion stores it generally sucks. In fact it sucks even more since the recession hit. Usually my experience goes something along the lines of this…
Walk into the store and head upstairs….Now I don’t know why but most fashion retailers feel that men should have to work further, but it’s all good I have no issue with that. I’m then usually greeted by loud cheesy club music, bright lights and boring fixtures. I’ll scan the room and usually find hardly any staff on the shop floor. You’ll usually get a person ‘guarding’ the fitting rooms and also a cluster behind the tills. You may have the misfortune of having to rummage through displays that have been destroyed by other shoppers, I don’t know about you but I always try and put things back neatly. If you do find something you like/want to try on then the changing rooms are usually boring. When you make a purchase you’re generally ignored and then have your purchase flung at you.
This is not how it goes down in every fashion store but a lot of the major high street fashion retailers work like that. The designer stores aren’t all that cracking either, while I’ve not experienced it myself I have heard many a bad story about really unhelpful staff.
I guess I’ll explain where I stand on the matter as I’ve been at both sides of the till so to speak. First of all I’m going to start with the retailers, it was highlighted in the TV show that they don’t give enough training to their staff. I agree, other than at Harvey Nichols where the training was decent I received hardly any ‘fashion’ training at River Island. I mean you wouldn’t buy a car from someone who didn’t really know anything about cars?
I remember in my Interview you just had to reel off three of the current trends, which doesn’t constitute as ‘knowledge’. So the majority of staff are starting work potentially with little knowledge about fashion and then never receiving any training on it. I also think that they should be a bit more rigorous in their interviewing in terms of matching the personality of the candidate to their role. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve met people in retail who just don’t like working with people.
I also think shops tend to look scruffy fast and a lot of them look the same with the same lighting and fixtures.Yeah you may find a lick of paint here and there or some funky looking wall paper but the way the clothes are displayed are generally dull. I recently visited a Hollister store in Birmingham and was really impressed. It was basically like walking into an old house, it was kind of dark inside but then bright spot lights illuminated key pieces. It worked really well and the staff seemed pleased that I had walked in. I think some stores need to be more creative with their whole approach to retailing. Especially as online retailers are taking a chunk of the profit pie now.
Great customer service is all well and good but do people actually want it?
I know from my own experience some times people just want to be left alone when shopping they don’t want to be talked to or bothered. A great example is the store lush that sell handmade beauty products. I like to do my own thing when it comes to shopping and while I don’t mind engaging with the sales assistants, I do prefer to be left alone. Whenever I go into lush the girls in their are crazy, the first thing that jumps in my head is “these girls must be on commission” as they’re all up in my face as soon as I step through the door. To some people they may think that’s good customer service. I’d much prefer a more relaxed vibe where I can leisurely browse and ask someone for help if I need it.
I’d love to hear where you stand on the customer service debate?
Also I’d love to hear about any particularly good or bad experiences with stores?
Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.
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